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US DoJ offers to jail copyright infringers

Attorney General floats tough new law

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US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has proposed tough new copyright enforcement laws that would criminalise consumers simply for trying to make unauthorised copies of music, movies and software, whether they are successful or not.

Dubbed the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2005 (IPPA), the bill, which has yet to be put before the US Congess, seeks to provide harsher penalties for copyright infringers, in particular those who do so persistently.

For tougher sentences, think not only bigger fines, but also jail terms, the seizure of equipment used to make illegal copies and the payment of compensation to the owner of the copied work, Gonzales indicated.

"Rapid technological advancements have made the reproduction and distribution of counterfeit goods and pirated materials easier than ever in our history,” Gonzales said yesterday night, the Red Herring reports. “[We] must advance along with modern technologies if we’re going to keep pace with this evolving area of criminal activity.”

Gonzales was speaking at Stopping the Fakes, a US Chamber of Commerce-sponsored conference focused on exploring measures to combat counterfeiting.

The IPPA doesn't appear to seek to change the fundamentals of US copyright law, which govern who owns a work and the extent to which others may make copies of it without seeking the permission of the copyright holder, but to allow law enforcement agencies greater leeway to pursue those suspected of infringing copyright and to come down harder on those found to have engaged in such actions.

Gonzales' IPPA proposal comes after the US Supreme Court ruled that anyone seen to be knowingly aiding and abetting copyright infringement can be sued by copyright holders. That judgement led to renewed efforts by the Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA) to force P2P companies to block copyright infringement and to obtain licences to allow copyright works to be shared. A number of them have since complied, or closed their networks down while they get legal. ®

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